With the death of Jean McGaffin, Rotorua has lost one of its most dynamic contributors to the community.

She died on Saturday after a brief clash with cancer, diagnosed only days after her 90th birthday in November.

Call her what you will, be it pillar of the community, charity maven, fundraising queen or the whirling dervish of the volunteer sector, it matters not.

Jean McGaffin was all that and so much more; one of those who got things done for the betterment of others.

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Instrumental in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for numerous local groups and organisations, her community involvement was recognised with a Queen's Service Medal in 2003.

Jean McGaffin who was awarded the Queen's Sevice Medal in 2003. Photo/file
Jean McGaffin who was awarded the Queen's Sevice Medal in 2003. Photo/file

The following year the Sunrise Rotary Club awarded her a Paul Harris Fellowship for her on-going achievements.

It was Jean McGaffin who founded the Rotorua Community Charity Trust with its elegant annual Melbourne Cup gala, pouring more than $100,000 into community causes within a handful of years.

It had its genesis when Heather, one of her three daughters, told her of the then IHC's desperate need for computers.

"Leave it to me" said this action woman who propelled her way through life by, as her son Don Gollan put it, leaving no stone unturned.

Joanne Keefe and Jean McGaffin at Harcourts Dancing with the Rotorua Stars last year. Photo/file
Joanne Keefe and Jean McGaffin at Harcourts Dancing with the Rotorua Stars last year. Photo/file

Jean MGaffin and her late husband Andrew McGaffin settled in Rotorua in 1973, it was a place with which she had strong family ties; her great-grandfather, Isaac Wilson, was the licensee of the Lake House Hotel when Tarawera erupted.

She retained her connection with Ohinemutu as an active member of the St Faith's church congregation.

At her instigation the Geyser Foundation established a St Faith's fund with Jean McGaffin organising a raft of fundraisers to bolster its coffers. The latest was an afternoon concert held two days before her 90th milestone.

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From left, Jean McGaffin Lily Prummel and Chrissie Aratema at high tea at the Regent to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday last year. Photo/file
From left, Jean McGaffin Lily Prummel and Chrissie Aratema at high tea at the Regent to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday last year. Photo/file

St Chad's, Riding for the Disabled, the New Zealand Aria, a primary schools oral language programme and helping the police with this newspaper's Christmas appeal all carried the Jean McGaffin stamp.

At the time of her death she was in the throes of helping establish, again with the police, a Mana Up programme for intermediate-aged students.

Packed with personality and with a warm wit, she was an early Coffin Club (an iconic community organisation where members make their own coffins) member, playing the starring role in a recent documentary that has won international plaudits, National Geographic included.

Jean McGaffin was personality plus. This photo was taken at Life Education Trust's Dunk For Life in 2010. Photo/file
Jean McGaffin was personality plus. This photo was taken at Life Education Trust's Dunk For Life in 2010. Photo/file

"Mum was a natural comedienne," said daughter Anne Gollan."Physically and emotionally enthusiastic and energetic about everything."

Rotorua MP Todd McClay paid tribute with the words "lively, lovely, generous" to the staunch National Party member since she was 16."

Close friend Jo-Anne La Grouw saluted her for "always being there for the underdog".

"If you were to measure Jean's community service in gold nuggets there'd be more gold in her heart than you'd ever find in Fort Knox . . . she was a crusader who led from the front," said Mike Keefe.

Another close to her, Ross Bell, called her "a powerhouse who lived life to the max".

She is survived by her son, three daughters, two granddaughters and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at St Faith's Church on Wednesday at 11am.

- Jill Nicholas